Monday, October 29, 2012
Anyone who confuses young adult literature with simple kids’ stuff has not read Patricia McCormick. A former journalist with an investigator’s eye and an astute sense of social justice, McCormick’s novels for younger readers have taken her into a residential treatment center (Cut), the harrowing world of sexual slavery in India (Sold), the Iraq War (Purple Heart), and the killing fields of Cambodia (Never Fall Down). McCormick wants us to know; she wants us to see. She wants to teach us something about this world, but she is no sermonizer. She’s a poet, in fact, this Patricia McCormick, writing of split worlds with lacerating precision, daring prose, and devastating beauty.
McCormick’s most recent book, the National Book Award finalist Never Fall Down (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins), is a collaboration — a novel inspired by the real life of Arn Chorn-Pond. Swept into the Khmer Rouge’s brutal reeducation program, separated from his family in a series of labor camps, and bullied into being someone he might have never imagined could exist, Arn nonetheless survives, thanks in part to his talent for music and his refusal to lay down and die. Arn does not emerge from the book as an innocent. His shame is palpable, his losses many. As his interviewer, friend, and fellow traveler, McCormick’s greatest gift to Arn is the gift she has always brought her readers—her faith in the truth.